Dyfed-Powys’s new police air service has completed its first two months, providing 24-hour coverage across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys.
Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon said: “Air cover is there 24 hours every day of the year where previously we had just 12 hours a day.
“In January last year our own helicopter was out of action 10 days for maintenance. Other than during bad weather, as was the case with the previous service, I’m pleased that figures show the new arrangement is meeting our needs so far.
“I am keeping a close eye on it to ensure that it delivers what we need.
“It costs us £275,000 less too, with further savings of £75,000 from April this year. I am determined to put that towards frontline officers to keep people safe.”
The police force asked for air support 41 times in January and February. On 18 of those occasions, the crew was stood down before take-off as incidents had been resolved by officers on the ground.
The 11 incidents attended included a counter-terrorism exercise in Milford Haven, concerns for the welfare of individuals in Sennybridge, Powys, and the Black Mountain, near Ammanford, people fleeing from a road collision in Aberystwyth and a missing person in Cardigan.
Poor weather prevented the air crews attending on nine occasions. Three incidents which the service could not attend for other reasons included missing people who were located shortly after the call to the National Police Air Service (NPAS).
Like-for-like data for 2015 is unavailable. However, January 2015 did see 24 calls for air support, with 14 being stood down. The Dyfed-Powys aircraft was unavailable for 10 days due to maintenance.
Supt Huw Meredith, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “I meet regularly with NPAS to review our demand and their response. We are working closely together to ensure that Dyfed-Powys Police gets the best possible service from NPAS.”
The home of the former Dyfed-Powys service, Pembrey, is being used as a forward operating base by NPAS. Helicopters have made a number of visits this year. Mr Salmon and the police force are considering how the base can be further used in the future. It is already being used for driver training.
The new air service began on January 1, supplied by the NPAS and offering 24/7 cover from air bases such as St Athan in South Wales and Hawarden in North Wales.
It replaced a Dyfed-Powys service which had been available 12 hours a day. The new service costs the taxpayer £890,000 a year, significantly less than the previous service.
NPAS Accountable Manager Chief Superintendent Ian Whitehouse said: “We are pleased to welcome Dyfed-Powys into the NPAS collaboration.
“We are committed to working with local staff to develop operational support that reduces the threat, harm and risk to communities.
“Since it’s foundation in 2009, NPAS has delivered 23% savings to forces across the country in the cost of air support.”